On Monday, November 25, 2019, I had a spiritual experience. It’s been two days since I saw Hozier perform during his residency at the Hammerstein Ballroom and I haven’t been the same (and to address the elephant in the room, yes, you could say he “took me to church.” I’ll roll my eyes too.)
I first started listening to him in high school, 2014, and I was but a baby (but my taste was there!) Honestly, I wasn’t really listening to Wasteland, Baby! when Bee and I bought the tickets. I enjoyed the singles and the EP, but it was during an intense study session earlier this fall where I listened the album and had something shift.
The concert was incredible– as only my second concert (and my first without seats!) I was nervous to be in the General Admissions section. Clocking in at only five feet tall, I feared being squashed. Bee was very kind and had us stay near the back, which worked to my advantage because I could see everything better from farther away. And yes, of course the second I went to the restroom I heard him get on stage (it couldn’t be any other way.) He acknowledged each section in the audience, the gods (in the nosebleeds,) demigods (in the mezzanines,) and us, the mortals on the floor. It felt like a compliment to be a mortal– I think if he were in the crowd, he’d want to be a mortal, too.
One of my favorite moments was when he played Wasteland, Baby! which is my favorite from the album. He explained that when the song was written in 2016, the Doomsday Clock was set so humanity was two minutes from destroying itself. How would we spend those two minutes? Hopefully doing acts of kindness and expressing our feelings to those we love. Writing it now these are things that have been often said to me before, but when those words came out of his mouth in that poetic way, I felt like the most meaningful thing ever. I didn’t think that song would make the set list since it wasn’t played when my friend had seen him in a couple days before, so it felt like a special present just for me.
And then came From Eden. I always liked the song, but it was after I found out Bee liked Hozier too and mentioned that song when I really took the time to appreciate it (I’m guilty of saying I love something and retroactively going back to learn about it so I look cool.) The arrangement played at the concert was slower, and it is now my favorite by miles (here's a version from another concert.) I swayed, sang along, and before I knew it, tears were spilling out of my eyes.
When Hozier the album came out I had never been to a concert. I remember thinking I would save my first concert to someone who was truly worth it, and he was it. And at the start of this year, when Bee and I booked those tickets, I had a full-circle moment; he was going to be my first concert (Kacey Musgraves ended up being my first concert in October, but those tickets were bought later.) I felt I had waited an eternity for it. After the release of Hozier, I remember reading an interview where it was mentioned that it takes Hozier a long time to write songs, and that it would take maybe five years for the next album to come out, a far cry from the standard two or three years that listeners are used to. I was crushed then, but did the math and figured I would be in college on the Mainland, so wherever I was, I’d find him there.
It’s jarring to think about how much life has changed. Where I am now is where me then dreamed of being, from school to city of residence to career experience. I know the last couple posts have been fraught with homesickness and uncertainty about being in New York, but it is moments like these where I realize how lucky I am and how amazing my life has been to this point. It’s wild how those thoughts then manifested themselves into where I am now– I was scared to express my dreams to anyone because I thought they wouldn’t come true. Some things change so much, but some things stay exactly the same.
Today my friend Cera told me to watch a surf documentary called Momentum Generation. The doc highlights a group of surfers who became friends as kids and turned into some of the most famous names in the sport. Cera said seeing Pipeline and home on film made her happy, so although I have no personal investment in surfing, I turned it on. It’s not that I ever hated the sport, but I fall out of the “Hawaii girl” stereotype – I don’t surf, and never learned. I am not a woman of the water. I admire the ocean from afar, and fear her (out of respect!) When I’m home, you can find me at the beach lounging on the sand, only putting myself in the water if there are absolutely no waves. Even though I was not the movie’s target audience, I’m a sucker for a good documentary, and really enjoyed it. You don’t need to be a surfing buff to follow along, and I loved the movie's take on male friendship and masculinity; despite their pasts, the group are now an example of men who can support and feel supported by one another.
Despite the pressure the group were under the men had this calm energy about them. They take it slow and go with the flow. Perhaps that’s something that has to come naturally to someone whose profession is moving with the rhythm of the ocean, finding balance in chaos. New York is a fast-paced place to live and simply existing in it can be stressful sometimes. When I’m home I can look around, take a deep breath and just be happy I’m there. Maybe that comes with being near nature, among life bursting with vibrant greens, yellows, reds and every shade of blue. I miss seeing colors like that. New York hums with bright lights, but everything seems to settle in shades of brown and grey. I can find a rainbow every other day in Hawaii, here I don't think I've seen one once.
Momentum Generation was a much needed breath of fresh air. I am definitely watching surf competitions live online now, no matter where I am on Earth. I hope I make it to the Eddie when I’m home for Christmas. I’ve never been before, but while an hour drive to the North Shore seemed like an eternity in my first eighteen years of life, I now have a greater understanding of what “far” really is. I don’t know where I’ll be after college graduation, but I do know seeing that event in person won’t be nearly as easy once breaks aren't something dictated by a school schedule. One thing I started doing after I went to college was sitting at Diamond Head Lookout with my friends. We place ourselves in a row on a rock wall, our slippers dangling over the edge of the lookout's steep decline, and watch the people surf below. The waves on the South Shore aren’t the beasts of the North Shore, and from so far up above, you just see tiny people on tiny waves, little specks on an eternal ocean.
Jack Johnson was also woven into this story too, because he was a surfer and friend of the group in this documentary. The film closed with his song “Better Together,” and I found myself singing along in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve been listening to a lot of music from home recently, and I think it’s because the temperatures are dropping. Usually the sadder stuff makes me cry, but recently it hasn’t. I think that’s a good thing. Those songs don’t bring up specific memories, just imagery and feelings of home. Ginger plants in my front yard, fluttering in the breeze. The garlic shrimp on the North Shore, where my dad took my brother and I to eat this past summer when we were feeling blue. The steep hill on Kilauea Ave. If it is a clear day, you can see the neighbor islands peeping out on the horizon.
I jotted down a short list of songs from home that are making me happy right now. Here they are, in no particular order (just kidding, Jack Johnson is at the top because he's on my brain.)